Excerpt from Hearing God

Friends Have Shared Understanding 

Jesus calls us friends if we do what he commands (Jn 15:14). As God’s friends we always want to be asking God what he is doing and how he wants us to work with him. God’s desires are important to us. Friends are people who understand one another, and so as friends of Jesus we obey because we understand what God, our intimate Friend, is doing. Intimacy with God grows from and creates further shared understanding.

Many cannot progress in their relationship with God because they focus solely on what they think God might be telling them to do. In these cases, the friendship aspect of the relationship is missing. Things are as they should be when we don’t have to be told what to do.

Because we are God’s colaborers, our wants and desires are also important to God and God’s plan for us (1 Cor 3:9 KJV). His intent for us is that we would grow to the point we would do what we want because what we want is part of that shared understanding with God, our friend.

It’s true that God sometimes tells us what to do, but we are not simply in a relationship of master and slave. Paul described himself as God’s slave, but he didn’t begin as God’s slave. We are not driven to servanthood, but drawn to it. We, like Paul, move into complete service as free people under Someone who respects our wants and wills and helps us become the persons we want to be.

Saints who have been drawn into this friendship and single-focused service (slavery) become something no one has ever seen before. They become true individuals who are unique because God has shaped their hearts and their wills (Prov 3:5 – 6). Their desires match up with God’s desires, and they are empowered to do what they and God want. (On the other hand, sinners are boringly predictable because there is nothing unique in what they live for. People who are enslaved to their desires are all similar.)

Shared Work for Good

God gives us as his colaborers the power of creativity, and we delight in our creativity. That shared understanding and creative activity is spelled out in Genesis 1:26, where we are given responsibilities so that we share in carrying out creative responsibilities with him: Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” What does that mean? Look at the next few words: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” God is trying to create the greatest possible good and gives us the responsibility to exercise dominion to do good, using the powers that we have to do good. 

I try to do physical labor from time to time. I like to work with brick and mortar and to pour concrete. Even though it’s not very good quality work, I have to go back, look at it and enjoy it within just a few hours. That is how the dominion idea of Genesis 1:26 is built into us.

And yet even as we exercise dominion, we are working out the desires of our hearts within the boundaries of the divine conversation. That conversational relationship we carry on with God creates our unique life. And that is how God wants things to be.

As we do the work God has laid out for us, we always work within the larger framework of the community and fellowship we are a part of. We do not go off in a corner and do something creative. The dominion mentioned in Genesis 1:26 is meant to be exercised in a community of love, not in individual dominion. We find our delight in our friendships with other people, which moves us toward the trinitarian nature of human community. The Trinity is the model of life as it is intended to be in human existence, the basis for Christian community. We are invited to help heal broken relationships and bring them into dominion under God. Though the world’s problems will not be solved this side of heaven, resolution of the problems of the world is meant to be begun now (Col 1:19 – 29).

In this life with God, his presence banishes our aloneness and makes real the meaning and full purpose of human existence. This union with God consists chiefly in a conversational relationship with God while we are consistently and deeply engaged as his friend and colaborer in the affairs of the kingdom of the heavens.

Taken from Hearing God by Dallas Willard. Copyright © 2012 by Dallas Willard. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.ivpress.com

Photo by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash

Text First Published October 1999 · Last Featured on Renovare.org September 2022